Saw palmetto is a supplement made from the fruit of a palm tree native to the American Southeast. It was used for centuries as both a food and medicine by Native Americans of the region. Saw palmetto benefits may include reduction in prostate size and treatment of certain hormonal disorders such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). It is often taken in the form of the dried berry, crushed berry in capsules, and oil in capsules.
Some studies have indicated that there are saw palmetto benefits for men. Many older men suffer from benign enlargement of the prostate. While generally not life threatening, the side effects of an enlarged prostate gland can be unpleasant. Studies on the benefits of saw palmetto for benign enlarged prostate have had mixed results. Some studies indicated a positive result; other studies saw no difference from a placebo.
The benefits of saw palmetto for women are said to be reduction in acne, reduced hirsutism and retardation of hair loss. Most accounts of saw palmetto benefits for women are anecdotal, as formal studies are sparse. Saw palmetto acts as a blocker of certain hormones and has been used in tandem with other supplements such as vitex to treat PCOS. Hirsutism and severe acne are often major symptoms of PCOS, and some women have reported success in using saw palmetto to treat these symptoms.
Other alleged saw palmetto benefits include anti-inflammation, reduction of pelvic pain in men, and lowering of blood pressure. It should be noted that only the anti-inflammatory effects are supported by formal research. Some people have reported an increase in blood pressure after taking saw palmetto. A year-long study found no significant saw palmetto benefits for pelvic pain.
Care should be taken to buy saw palmetto supplements from reputable manufacturers. The purity of the supplement may vary drastically between manufacturers. Some less reputable manufacturers have been found to adulterate their supplements with fillers or even some toxic substances, which can reduce the saw palmetto benefits. Another consideration is the dosage and amount of active ingredient.
It is best to take saw palmetto with food; otherwise it can cause an upset stomach. Side effects can include constipation and diarrhea. Pregnant and nursing women should not take saw palmetto. Saw palmetto should also be avoided by people taking blood thinning medications. Use of saw palmetto should be immediately stopped if the user experiences a marked allergic reaction such as hives.